Beautifully designed, the film captures the tone and design of the art deco age, with a lovely homage to the work.
One of the best adaptions one could hope for, on-target in every way.
A loving respect to Dave Steven's work, I wish we had gotten more than one.
By Tym Stevens
The reason you know who Bettie Page is...is because of Dave Stevens.
A year after Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Dave channeled all the best aspects of pulps and serials into a slam-bang '30s adventure comic series about a rocket-pack man and his actor galpal accidentally fighting crime. He threw everything good in there, from jetpacks and mobsters to art deco and cliffhangers, with Eisner shenanigans and touches of early Frazetta and Russ Manning in his excellent artwork. But what everyone really noticed was the girlfriend, Betty.
The infamous '50s pin-up Bettie Page had been slightly revived in the '70s in the mildly cold photorealist paintings of Robert Blue. But Dave's warm evocation of her as Betty in the '80s wholly whirlwinded the Bettie revival. By the '90s there were fanzines, books, burlesque copycats, rock songs, and an array of Dark Horse Comics merchandise. Dave's facility also spurred a reappreciation of “good girl art” and pin-ups that filled still more books and posters, and propelled new artists like Adam Hughes and Frank Cho.
But it was the book itself that fills the bill. The stories are exciting, the art is sumptuous, and the research is rich. Like Phillip Jose Farmer, he peoples his exploits with winking cameos of unnamed famous pulp characters (Doc Savage, The Shadow) and movie actors. The only drawback was that there just wasn't enough of it, often enough. But we're lucky to get what we were bequeathed. It should be remembered that the '80s comics renaissance first upsurged with indie comics like "The Rocketeer," "Love and Rockets," "Cerebus," and "American Flagg" before anyone had even heard of Alan Moore and barely knew Frank Miller.
Director Joe Johnston, who was intricately involved in the makings of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, brings all that zing into his delightful film adaption. (He would work that same Indy magic later on Captain America: The First Avenger.) Even Dave marveled at how his work seemed to have leaped fullform off the page. The only thing missing was Bettie Page herself, but Jennifer Connelly is no second banana, so even that's great. In the gulf between Superman and the current age of fine superhero films, The Rocketeer is an underrated missing link.
Dave Stevens was a fine guy, much beloved and very missed.